Hulk (2003)

hulk 2003-movie-poster-review-ang-lee
6.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 6/10

One of the strangest comic book adaptations ever

Never finds the balance, gets too artsy for its own good

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Hulk 

Studio:  Marvel Enterprises

Genre(s):  Comic Book/Drama/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  June 20, 2003

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

hulk transformation eric bana

Ugh…I shouldn’t have eaten that dip that sat out in the sun for 4 hours

Bruce Krensler (Eric Bana) is a scientist on the verge of a major breakthrough involving gamma radiation.  When a lab mishap occurs, Bruce is bombarded by gamma radiation which unlocks something deep within his genes.  Bruce learns that the past can come back to haunt you as he learns that his real name is Bruce Banner and his father David (Nick Nolte) has secretly been working at the lab as a janitor.  His girlfriend Betty Ross (Jennifer Connelly) finds her father Thunderbolt (Sam Elliott) is circling Bruce and the danger is growing to their project, Bruce, and the world.  Now, the Hulk has been unleashed, but the Hulk could be the only chance to save the world when David Banner’s real plans for his son are revealed.

Directed by Ang Lee, Hulk is a Marvel Comics superhero comic book movie.  It is a big screen adaptation of the comic book character created in 1962 and previously was made-for-television in 1978.  The movie polarized critics and fans and did not fare as well at the box-office as hoped mostly due to the massive budget.

hulk gamma dogs poodle hd

First thing I think of when I think of the Hulk is how much I wanted him to fight more mutant dogs

Hulk is possibly one of the strangest big screen mainstream comic adaptations I’ve seen.  It beat the big live-action push of the MCU but followed the X-Men and Blade movies.  I loved the original TV series as a kid and always had a soft spot for the character.  Ang Lee was a strange choice for the project, and Lee and classic comics combine in a movie that is a bit of mess but at times is compelling.

Hulk tries too hard and finally finds a bit of a balance too late into the long movie.  Instead of just being about a guy who is caught in an experiment, Lee turned it into a story about the sins of the father with Bruce always having the potential for this power within him (though that does help the logic of why there are not tons of Hulks running around since gamma radiation is not rare).  With this decision, the movie becomes more of a psychological drama for the first hour or so…this is dull and fine, but Lee’s choice to go goofy with Hulk-dogs brings the drama to a halt and just makes it laughable.  I do not want a laughable Hulk.  I want the powerful and dangerous Hulk that cannot control himself…and with a big budget I want a cool big supervillain.

hulk desert 2003

At least we got to see a purple pants Hulk jumping through the America Southwest…they got that right

The actual action sequences of this film are quite good.  With a computer animated Hulk, we finally do get to the see the Hulk in all his glory and power.  Beginning with the desert sequence, the movie shows a true comic book form Hulk…and it is quite cool.  If the movie was more like the twenty-five minute rampage that ends in San Francisco, the movie would be good…unfortunately, the ending also with his father as the Absorbing Man/Zzzax is also quite weak and makes little sense.

Edward Norton was originally approached to be the Hulk and became the Hulk in the next Hulk film.  Bana does a fine job as the more psychologically driven Hulk, and Jennifer Connelly is perfect as Betty Banner who can hold her own.  Sam Elliott was a good fit for Thunderbolt Ross since he already sports the mustache.  Nick Nolte plays the crazed over-acting David Banner and his look led to his awesome famous mugshot since he was sporting his Hulk hair.  Josh Lucas plays the completely unsympathetic and unlikable Glenn Talbot.  You also have the obligatory cameo with Stan Lee (but also at the same time a Lou Ferrigno cameo).

hulk absorbing man ending eric bana zzzax

Here’s a good idea…let’s put a killer in with his mentally unstable kid who has anger issues for some bizarre two-actor play….what could go wrong?

The movie attempted to be a living comic book but the style was too distracting for me.  The panels would pop up on occasion and ruin the flow of the movie…it was like a kid who just got new editing software.  The Hulk on the other hand was often rather impressive.  The animators created three different sized Hulk and paid homage to different versions of the Hulk as a result…sometimes he was a bit too cartoony, but he still had a very real feel.

Hulk was a weird misfire which is why it is worth seeking out the movie due to its oddity.  This movie does not fit the MCU format that has become common, but it also does not necessarily mean that it is unique in a good way.  The power and idea is there, but the movie sags.  The Incredible Hulk was released only five years later in 2008 with Norton replacing Bana and Hulk was streamlined into the movie MCU.  As a result, this Hulk lives in limbo…maybe he will show up in the Multiverse.

Related Links:

The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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